After the suprising success of The Toxic Avenger put alternative indie movie studio on the map, founders Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz were on a roll and had followed up their radioactive romp with the equally anarchic Class Of Nuke ‘Em High. However, when it came to Toxie’s return to the silver screen, Troma decided to big but not go home and took their muscle bound mascot to the streets of Japan, a country in which the original did noticably well.
But would the second coming of Toxie (aka. former 98lb weakling Melvin Junko) manage to reach the questionable heights of the orginal or will the endless jokes at the expense of numerous taboo subjects be too much to stomach?
We return to a changed Tromaville, free of crime thanks to the tireless evil destroying antics of New Jersey’s first superhero, the Toxic Avenger; but our partly dissolved do-gooder has been at a loss now that he’s murdered and mutilated every criminal and crooked politician in town. Fighting a monster sized bout of superhuman depression, Toxie is brought back in action again with the rise of super evil conglomerate, Apocalypse Inc. who make their presence felt by blowing up the home for the blind where he’s been working with his similarly vision impaired girlfriend Claire. After finishing off the thugs in such ways that veer from the cartoonish (crushing a dwarf into the size and shape of a basketball and then dunking the poor fucker) to the gruesome (a gunman is crushed inside a wheelchair until his guts burst) Toxie finds himself still in his funk but decides to raise his spirits by travelling to Japan in order to find his long lost father, a mysterious man who goes by the name of “Big Mac”.
However, after arriving in the land of the rising sun (by windsurfing, of course) and continuing to messily destroy any wrong doers within range of his evil detecting “Tromatons”, Toxie is dismayed to find that his alleged father is not only a Japanese drugs baron with a side order of white slavery, but he’s also researching on how to annihilate his son by inventing a chemical to do him in; worse yet, Apocalypse Inc. has taken over Tromaville in his absence and are rapidly turning the place into one big toxic skidmark with their various evil schemes.
Can the Toxic Avenger wrap up his business in Japan and make it home before Claire and the put upon citizens of Tromaville are brought to their knees by corporate tyranny and the threat of being used and abused by a gang of female s&m freaks?
Possibly the closest American culture has to the kind of humour seen in such shows like The Young Ones, Troma movies pride themselves on being fiercelessly offensive to as many people as they can while trying to be weirdly good natured while they’re at it. If you can tolerate graphic gore, huge amounts of unnecessary nudity and a complete absence of political correctness (plus bottom drawer production values) then they’re an adolescent type of deranged fun, but if you’re easily offended then it’s best to take a rain check and whack on Eat Pray Love or something instead.
However, despite a boost in the budget (not that you’d notice) and a little more experience behind the camera (again, you’ll have to take my word for it) The Toxic Avenger Part II fails to nail that tricky balancing act of good natured idiocy that the original bullseyed so well and the film has the distinct feeling of everyone involved trying too hard to replicate lightning in a bottle that just seems to elude them at every turn. Every scene drags on for way too long – a major problem in a comedy if your joke rate is bad – and the brutal slapstick is diluted somewhat by going too silly with some of the numerous and suprisingly strenuous looking fight scenes. While we’re on the subject: yes, that is indeed Spawn actor Michael Jai White throwing down with our lumpy hero in the first act (he also was the fight choreographer too).
In fact, there’s a distinct feeling that there’s a fair bit of filler crammed in a film that doesn’t have a lot going on in the first place, that’s because Kaufman, Hertz and the gang actually shot too much material and decided to make a third film out of the mountain of footage while adding more scenes to pad out both running times of both films. While admittedly industrious, it also leaves Part II with the pace and direction of an old man with alzheimers as he wanders the streets in the dead of winter in search of his childhood home as we wait for little plot there is to start back up like a stalling car engine.
That being said, there is something genuinely great about having Toxie actor Ron Fazio wander round Tokyo in full make up (probably without permits) while actual passers by stare at him in genuine confusion as he frantically murders bad guys in the street. You can actually see people in full view in the background openly wondering if they should be in the shot or not or even legitimately flee in terror what whatever the hell is going on and it briefly brings the sequel back in line with the grungy, take no prisoners, silliness of the original.
Of course, seeing as the good people at Troma like to consistently push the envelope of good taste (to put it mildly considering the film kicks off with the machine gunning of a blind old lady in a wheelchair), I feel a warning is in order considering the movie inevitably contains some cringe inducing racial jokes and the fact that some of the Japanese performers were over dubbed by white actors putting on accents.
New Toxie actor Ron Fazio has the sweet voice and bulging pecs required for the role whereas new Claire actress, scantily clad performance artist Phoebe Legere gives a performance so broad it can be seen from space, but considering subtlety isn’t high on Troma’s list of priorities, I guess technically that isn’t a bad point.
A splattery, goofy comedy that oddly suffers from frequently being too silly, The Toxic Avenger Part II is still dopey enough to appeal to it’s particular (probably heavily stoned) audience with it’s particular brand of toxic shock…